FISSURES (Published in Prov. Journal 8/10)
My suburban home is 50 years old. This Spring there was a little water in the basement after some rainfall. Inspection showed some small cracks in the foundation. Not much of a DIY (Do It Yourself) guy, but, I sealed as best I could and the problem seems to be solved.
If only there could be DIY solutions for the ever widening fissures in American society. The United States appears to still be having serious “settling” problems and the foundation is showing cracks. Long standing divisions, which have been allowed to fester for generations; racial, religious, liberal/conservative politics are now joined by newer conflicts; immigration, sexual orientation and economic disparity. This confluence of divisiveness has created a wave of negativity which floods our nation’s culture and saps its energy.
Sometimes, however, like the water appearing in my basement, you need a precipitating event to realize the full extent of the problem. Well, the past couple of years have certainly provided many painful red flags for Americans; police shootings of unarmed black men ( with the correspondingly disgusting revenge murders of innocent policemen), the continued consolidation of wealth in the hands of a select few while the middle class disappears, and the tragic slaying of nine black church members in Charleston evolving into raging debates over the merits/evils of the Confederate flag.
These events are clarion calls. History tells us that the responses will go two ways; positive and negative. The positive is that these events, and their root causes, can no longer be ignored. The negative is that these events will give the haters more to hate.
There are no Pollyanna answers to America’s issues. The United States has endured and prospered for nearly 2 1/2 centuries. The good news is that while our foundation may be developing fissures, its base, built with morality and justice, is still strong. The vast majority of our citizens, far removed from the virulent rantings of the extreme right and left, recognize the need for DIO (Do It Ourselves) solutions. These solutions require, however, the difficult acknowledgement that often problems can be fixed by a blend of both liberal and conservative steps.
Here are a couple of “helicopter” level examples.
On income inequality progressives bemoan the fact that according to a 2013 Credit Suisse report the top 10% of the richest people now own 87% of the world’s wealth, while conservative rail against entitlement program frauds. Well, many rich people create numerous jobs, support multiple charities and pay their appropriate share of taxes. Liberals should concentrate on exposing the cheaters and pursuing financial regulations which are fair and equitable. They should not be demonizing all the well to do. They must also accept that some fraud and generational habit forming is occurring in the government’s safety net programs for the poor. Conservatives, meanwhile, must stop stereotyping all people on some form of government assistance as “Cadillac welfare queens” and join liberals in seeking more balanced, and simpler, support systems and tax regulations.
The tinder box problem of race relations also requires a balanced approach. The U.S. Department of Education reports that in 2013 the high school graduation rates for white students was 86.6% while only 71% for blacks. The Forum on Child and Family Statistics reports that the average SAT scores for whites are 527 in reading and 536 for math with corresponding scores of 428 and 428 for blacks. Clearly educational needs for blacks must be addressed, but, in new more focused ways.
Sadly, other statistics show some of the set backs for young blacks are self inflicted. The Center for Disease Control reports that in 2013 a staggering 71.5% of black babies were born out of wedlock. This compares to 29.3% for whites. Many of these black babies are the progeny of very young parents. Nothing chains a person to poverty more firmly than this situation. Conservatives are correct that black clergy, parents and teachers must be far more actively involved in steering their youth in a more responsible direction.
The skill of balancing both sides of an issue is sorely lacking in present day politics. The solutions must come from a sensible, tolerant citizenry who provide DIO (Do It Ourselves) initiatives which attack problems from all sides.
The fissures are many, but not unrepairable. It is time for DIO action.
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